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Cervelli calls for action in wake of sexual abuse scandal

| Friday, August 24, 2018

College President Jan Cervelli condemned the actions of clergy in the Pennsylvania clergy sexual abuse scandal and called on the Saint Mary’s community to enact positive change in her reflections at the College’s opening of the academic year Mass on Thursday.

“The report on the grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse, and its related cover-up, is heartbreaking and unconscionable,” Cervelli said. “Words cannot adequately express how deeply these moral and legal violations strike at the heart of the relationship between the Catholic faithful and church leaders who have failed them.”

Jordan Cockrum | The Observer
Fr. Steve Newton presides over the College‘s opening of the school year Mass. During the service, Saint Mary‘s President Jan Cervelli condemned the Pennsylvania clergy sex abuse scandal and called for action in its wake.

The scandal stems from clergy sexual abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up currently revealed in a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing sexual abuse to more than 1,000 minors.

Cervelli emphasized the importance of healing and compassion in the journey to transform the Church following these difficult times.

“We, the Saint Mary’s community, stand in solidarity in condemning these acts and the failures of leadership in their wake,” Cervelli said. “We pray for healing for the survivors and recognize that now, more than ever, we must be the voice of compassion and healing to effect change in the Church and the world. We pray also for the guidance of those in power to devote themselves to the care and protection of the most vulnerable, and to pursue a path of transparency and reconciliation. Only through such a commitment to compassion and healing can the Church that we hold so dear be preserved and restored.”

In a call to action to the Saint Mary’s community, Cervelli invoked the guidance of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. She said their mission “moves them to reflect on the sign of the times, discern needs and respond.”

She added that the entire College community should be hypersensitive to injustice in the world and act to end it.

“Saint Mary’s students, faculty, staff and alumnae are called to raise their voices and address injustice,” Cervelli said. “We gain inspiration, courage and wisdom from the Sisters of the Holy Cross. … Saint Mary’s women, guided by the Sisters, are equipped to address the needs of the church, their communities and the world.”

Cervelli expressed the importance of being active in preventing the recurrence of incidents like the abuse and cover-up in Pennsylvania.

“The world needs more women educated in the Saint Mary’s tradition,” Cervelli said. “I call on each and every one of us inspired and educated in the Holy Cross tradition to step up. Partner with your parishes and dioceses, families and communities, to make the change we need. We must remain steadfast in making certain the atrocities of the past are not repeated.”

In reference to a reading from 1 Corinthians, Cervelli discussed the importance of unity and embracing the different gifts each member of the community has.

“Paul emphasizes the variety of our gifts and the one spirit who gives them,” Cervelli said. “Let’s not turn away from the difficulties we encounter, but use our unique gifts and talents to complete the whole, to build up the body of Christ regardless of the hardships, the difficulties or struggles we encounter.”

Cervelli urged students to welcome these “unique gifts” they possess and use them to be a positive force for change.

“This past weekend, we welcomed the talented class of 2022, graduate and transfer students, to our beautiful campus. … Their passion, determination and spirit of service give me hope in these troubled times,” she said. “As we heard in the reading, there are many gifts given by the spirit. We count on all of our students to push themselves beyond their comfort level to understand the changing world and to find their voice to effect positive change.”

Fr. Steve Newton presided over the Mass and also commented on the sexual abuse scandal.

“This academic year, as the College focuses on the cornerstone faith and spirituality, has gotten off to a tough start,” Newton said. “Having coincided new revelations of abuse … by priests, bishops and cardinals, it is almost as if Jesus has gone away, and left us in grief, horror and disgust.”

The Mass concluded with a commissioning of student leaders, in which student leaders pledged their commitment to act in the spirit of the College’s mission and to foster an inclusive community.

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About Jordan Cockrum

Jordan Cockrum is a senior at Saint Mary's studying Communications and Humanistic Studies. She currently serves as Saint Mary's Editor.

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